The Last Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama was recently hospitalized due to a chest infection. The world renown Buddhist leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient has since recovered but this incident has brought focus to a core doctrine in Buddhism: impermanence. All things are transient, Buddhist scripture states, and that includes the Dalai Lama.

When the Dalai Lama has passed on before, senior monks would go on journey to find his reincarnation, a practice that allowed the legacy to live on through the generations. For fourteen reincarnations, this quest was accomplished without hindrance.

But times have changed.

China invaded Tibet, the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, in 1950. In the course of annexing the nation, they murdered hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. As a result of their control of the region and tight dominance, this long-standing tradition may, itself, suffer its own impermanence.

Chinese leadership has now weighed in on reincarnation, clearly indicating their intention to interfere with the succession.

According to CNN, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said there are “clear rules” regarding the reincarnation of “the living Buddha.”

“Reincarnation of living Buddhas, including the Dalai Lama, must comply with Chinese laws and regulations and follow religious rituals and historical conventions,” Lu said.

It’s not the first time the Chinese Communist Party has involved itself in a long-standing tradition. Three days after the Dalai Lama identified the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the Chinese government kidnapped him. He has not been seen in over 20 years since.

About Andrew Burke 145 Articles
Editor-in-Chief Andrew Burke is a lifelong aficionado of all things Chinese. He studied Mandarin while living in Taiwan for six years and now works as a digitization specialist at the Yenching Library, which specializes in Asian books and documents, at Harvard University where he also studies topics related to China, Chinese, Asia and foreign affairs.